I wait for this phrase all year…
Yep, we are back to what a lot of us consider the best time of the year. No matter where you live, Halloween is the same. Parties, costumes, haunted houses/hay rides and just being allowed to be scared. Being scared is good for you. It quickens the heart and blood (vampires really love this time of year), it brings out your inner beast (werewolves love this), you can eat crazy sweets and drink lots of powerful potions…um…drinks (DUI attorneys love this, and who needs to be loved by them?!)
This holiday has been special for me since I was a kid and put on my first costume, which was one of the old Ben Cooper Skeleton suits. The mask alone was Vaccuform hideousness taken to a high level. My Mom was happy to see me disappear into the night and go make other parents cringe. Actually, that part of Halloween was pretty much my year-round norm.
As I grew older (not up), Halloween was my time of year. I was inspired more at this time than any other. But, my best inspiration was after one Halloween where I dressed as a werewolf. It went over so well that over the next few years I added to the outfit. One year I got ahold of some yak hair and glued it on myself. Well putting a shirt on after was a pain, so I opted for old overalls and put a Ron Jon’s surf shop ballcap on and went as a werewolf surf monster. I used that outfit a few more times, and it was my favorite, plus my friends expected it on Halloween.
So, where is this leading? To Bubba, that’s where.
As time went on, the surfer evolved into the first “Florida Man,” as it were. Only this “Florida Man” was a beer drinking, truck driving partying wolf. In other words, he was me and all my rowdy friends like the old Hank Williams Jr. song called us.
When I was working in the early ‘90s at Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando’s Universal Studios theme park, I was part of one of the first crews to do special FX makeup for the event. Now, two of the four years I spent doing this were beyond special. I created Bubba one year, and then another year, I got to work with some serious movie stars (including an Oscar winner) on a horror film that turned into a disaster film instead. Tell ya about the ill-fated movie in the “No shit, there I was…” section, but here’s Bubba’s story…
October 1996. It was my second year doing HHN for a friend who was pretty much the creator of the event. Universal wanted a Halloween event for the Orlando park and so contracted my friend and master makeup artist, Michael Davy. Mike was mentored and sponsored by Dick Smith, who did films like The Exorcist, The Godfather and so on. Mike made sure we didn’t disappoint his mentor or the crowds. It was a blast to do. Now, on the crew was this brilliant airbrush and sculpt artist named Mike Broom. We became friends due to a love of gore films, dogs and heavy metal music.
A few weeks before the event, I was offered a shot at doing comics. And for a well-known Indie publisher to boot. I was telling Mike Broom about it, and he asked if I had an artist. I was thrilled to get Mike on this! His work was superb, and I knew if I told him that it was a redneck werewolf, he’d laugh and his imagination as to his look would flare up. And it did. Mike and I are still great friends to this day, and he is now one of the top creature designers and storyboard artists in Hollywood. Bubba was a start, but he took his talent to out-of-this-world places like doing work for things like The Orville and the new hit series Creepshow.
Bubba may be a junkyard dog, but he’s got one hell of a pedigree.
Now for two special Halloween treats:
- This month, you can read the first Bubba appearance by Mike and me. It’s not the Bubba you know and love. That came later and is a story for another blog. Enjoy, as it will be gone by the next full Moon… (UN: BubbaWolf, PW: BirthdayTreat)
- I’ve also posted a favorite Halloween short story of my own. Read “Hell’s Belle of Sleepy Hollow” here.
No shit, there I was… The Vampyre Wars!
As I mentioned earlier, I had another wild Halloween where for the month of October 1996, I worked on a film called The Vampyre Wars.
It was never released. It had to do with the production company having some legal trouble and a lot of crap that is not worth going into here. Let’s just say, it was a valiant effort, but then again so was the Titanic. But it gave me a chance to do airbrush makeup and to work with Robert Englund (nice guy!), Chris Sarandon (voice of Jack Skellington), Amanda Plummer (cool and weird) and Maximillian Schell (Oscar winner and funny guy).
We filmed at Sea World and Universal late at night. If you haven’t ran around a closed theme park at 3 a.m., you will never know eerie and horror like some old buddies. All that crazy shit they have at the parks is even crazier looking with no one around and the shadows of night aren’t broken by all the lights and noise. It provided truly the perfect mental setting for making a horror film.
We needed several of the park locations to film, and so one Halloween night after doing HHN, I was hired as a well-paid, although non-credited, makeup person who wound up having a serious adventure. That night, I did my work and sat around talking about film and Marlon Brando with Max Schell, fought with tongs (like swords!) over the last biscuit at craft services with Robert Englund, was entertained by tales of strange Hollywood by Amanda Plummer, and got to hear Sarandon do a few live snappy comebacks (including a sarcastic and hilarious “Pumpkin King” reference) to the director and the writer as Jack Skellington who, like Sarandon, was getting tired of being up at 4 a.m. to do like three lines.
It was my favorite Halloween ever and so much went on that month that I’ll have y’all here ‘til next summer explaining it all. So, when you see me at a show, just ask about it and plan on losing an hour (at least) you ain’t never getting back.
The best thing I took away from the experience is that I wanted to make a movie, and I knew just which character I wanted to make it about. Well, it only took almost 20 years more, but I did it.
I will always be grateful to Max Schell, who thought Bubba was the craziest thing he’d heard of and that I should never give up on getting that dream. But, he also said that the idea was too insane, even for him to do and not to ask. I saw him a couple of times after that at events, and he would ask me about Bubba. I would ask him if he was still “not interested,” and he would laugh, shake my hand and abruptly stop smiling – then wink and walk away laughing.
And so, time to close for the witching hour approaches and since I have quite a few witches as friends, time for them to take over. So Happy Halloween and a blessed Samhain to you all!
Now go…Eat, Drink and be Scary!
Mitch (Surf Wolf) Hyman